Marvel Legally Wins Back Iconic Character Amid Content Axing, Production Turmoil

in Marvel, Movies

Marvel's Avengers including Thor, Black Widow, Captain Avenger, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and the Hulk, look up at the destruction of the city.

Credit: Marvel Studios

The Walt Disney Company and its subsidiary, Marvel Studios, finally have the distribution rights to one of the most iconic Avengers: The Incredible Hulk. Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fans are rejoicing at the news, potentially leading to the production of the highly-anticipated World War Hulk based on Marvel Comics

Related: Harrison Ford Talks Red Hulk in Interview

Mark Ruffalo appears as Bruce Banner, a.k.a. Hulk, in various MCU projects, including The Avengers (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018)Captain Marvel (2019), Avengers: Endgame (2019), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law on Disney+.

Mark Ruffalo smiles as Hulk in Avengers: Endgame
Credit: Marvel Studios

But Ruffalo wasn’t always the man behind the lovable green superhero. The second film in the MCU behind Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), starred Edward Norton as the leading man. The movie was produced by Marvel Studios but distributed by Universal Pictures, requiring a strict contract between the two entertainment giants that erased any possibility of a Ruffalo-led Hulk film.

The Incredible Hulk hits Disney+ on June 16, marking the expiration of the fifteen-year legal agreement between Marvel and Universal. Marvel President Kevin Feige has kept quiet about future projects with Ruffalo at the lead, but insiders previously suggested that World War Hulk could begin production in the coming months.

Still, MCU fans shouldn’t get their hopes up. Multiple Marvel Studios productions are currently halted due to the ongoing WGA strikes, which could last for months as entertainment companies struggle to negotiate with the writers’ union over writers’ room sizes, AI, and residuals.

Bruce with his son, Skaar. The pair stand side-by-side and smile.
Credit: Marvel Studios

As tension over residuals grows, Disney+ has come under fire for removing multiple Marvel titles, including MPower, Voices Rising: The Music of Wakanda Forever, Marvel’s Hero Project, and Marvel’s 616. According to higher-ups, the company no longer wanted to pay residuals to those who created and worked on the Marvel originals. 

This isn’t Marvel’s first rodeo with legal turmoil over its characters. The company sold Sony the rights to one of its iconic characters, Spider-Man, amid a rough financial patch in the 1990s – long before The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment.

Dedicated MCU fans know Tom Holland as Spider-Man, but Sony has produced multiple film series starring Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire as the beloved web-slinger. In 2018, they made history with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a uniquely-animated film starring Shameik Moore as Miles Morales, the newest Spider-Man.

Unlike Universal Pictures, Sony seems to have a better working relationship with Marvel Studios. Legal agreements between the two have made multiple Sony Spider-Man titles available to Disney+ subscribers, with more expected to come soon.

What future Hulk projects are you most excited about? Share your thoughts with Inside the Magic in the comments.

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